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Wednesday, December 17th, 2008 at 8:00 am  |  50 responses

Cub Scouts: The Week That Was

Philly fan, this one’s for you!

by Cub Buenning

Winter is upon on us and Cub Scouts is back with a randomly Pennsylvania-heavy look at the week of action in college basketball. Two Top 10 ranked teams suffered minor setbacks in the past seven days, while the bulk of teams prep for holiday tournaments and the jump-start of conference play. Despite the ire I have for rankings in general, I want to say ‘Good morning’ to those “experts” that finally decided to include the Baylor Bears in their little poll. Like I said in my Big 12 preview, this dangerously balanced team from Waco will be a fashionable pick to advance far come March.

1. Pittsburgh and the Big East need to look at their pre-conference scheduling.
The Panthers of Western PA have started with 10 straight wins for the sixth year in a row and for some reason, I am suspicious. How can a team start off so strongly for such an extended period of time, but have little actual postseason success to show? Yes, Pitt did take home the Big East Tournament crown last year, but that type of hardware should be saved for a totally different trophy case. In those six seasons (five under current head coach Jamie Dixon) Pittsburgh has never advanced past the Sweet 16 and in two of the last three years, they failed to make it out of the second round.

I would also put a collective “your bad” onus on the teams’ league-wide scheduling. While preparing the Big East preview, it was more than apparent than only a few teams (I.e. Notre Dame and Syracuse) decided to challenge themselves before the brutal run that will be “conference play” this year. This desire to play the dregs of Division-I play raises the obvious question.

What has the Big East done in NCAA Tournament play since Syracuse and Connecticut went back-to-back in 2003 and 2004? I know that teams from this league currently account for seven of the AP Top 15 (why have polls right now?!?) but check the records, it’s not good. In the last four years, only one team from the Big East has made a Final Four with Georgetown losing in the national semifinals in 2007.

2. Despite being a relatively quiet week, there were a few upsets to mention.
Two of the season’s early favorites to compete for a national title went down in out-of-conference action. Gonzaga suffered their first loss of the year in a thriller on Sunday night against Arizona. Although not a big upset in my mind (remember, Cub Scouts loves us some Arizona, too) the outcome might be a better win for the Wildcats than a killer loss for the Zags. The game was knotted with just under a minute to go and surprisingly, it was erratic late-game play by senior guard Jeremy Pargo that allowed the unranked Wildcats to steal the win in Phoenix. To their credit, Arizona played a tremendous defensive game, employing a new trapping-style of attack which didn’t stymie Gonzaga as much as it simply changed the pace of things. Everyone thinks of Chase Budinger when Arizona is mentioned, but it was his sidekick tandem of Jordan Hill and Nic Wise that were the difference. Both of the juniors went over the 20-point plateau (while Air Bud got his requisite 16 and7) and the Hill and Wise combined to hit six straight free-throws in the game’s final minute to secure the 69-64 win.

Tennessee and Bruce Pearl were not welcomed nor treated with much brotherly love as they got pounded by Temple in Philadelphia (Hey Ryan, maybe that wasn’t that bad of a loss for Penn St. after all?) The Volunteers received some early coal in their stockings, getting “scrooged” by Temple guard Dionte Christmas who exploded for 35 points in the Owls’ impressive 16-point win.

3. Speaking of Philly, who does Cub Scouts need to talk to about getting the “Big Five” back in order?
I’ve mentioned in this space before that the city of Philadelphia boasts the best college basketball in America; it is not even close. However, what has happened to the prestige and tradition of games The Palestraplayed between the city’s hoop brethren in Villanova, Saint Joseph’s, LaSalle, Pennsylvania and Temple? In the teams’ long respective histories, all of the games played between these five were contested inside the hallowed halls of the Palestra, which the Quakers of Pennsylvania have called home since…the day James Naismith invented our fair game. Personally, I was able to play in some of the nation’s greatest facilities for college basketball, but I always looked forward to our annual trip down to Philly for a game at the Palestra.

This weekend I dug up the LaSalle vs. Villanova game on the tube but was immediately turned off when I noticed that the game was being played at that corny dump on Nova’s campus.

Khalid and Aggrey, I need some help with this issue.

And guys, why don’t they just change the name, include Drexel, and call it the Big Six?

4. Player Alert—Continued Philly Love
St. Joe’s Ahmad Nivins is this week’s player, not based on future upside as a professional, rather on sheer appreciation of a very fruitful four-year career. His averages dipped a bit last year after a stellar sophomore season, but he is back to his old self and is proving to be one of the real inside forces in the Atlantic-10.

The bruising power forward has been a rock for Phil Martelli since coming down the turnpike from Jersey City four years ago. This year, the 6-9 245-pound Nivins is enjoying his finest hour in West Ahmad Nivins smallerPhilly getting 19 and 11 a night (he hasn’t produced less than 14 points or 8 rebounds yet, either.) A brutally tough early season schedule, though, has the Hawks a little roughed up as they prepare for the A-10 run.

(Side note: I hate the drafting crap that abounds about “If a senior was good enough to play in the pros he would have left early.” This is not always the case (as humans we all develop differently) and this method of player selection often puts too large of an emphasis on “combine” statistics, as apposed to being able to actually play the game. On the (American) football side of things, the Denver Broncos have a rookie (Wesley Woodyard) playing linebacker and safety that was undrafted out of Kentucky despite leading the SEC in tackles last year. At 5-11, the dude was told he was too small, now he is a starter on a divisional leader.)

5. Games This Week
Like last week, the sheer amount of games is a bit thin, but if you can devote just one day (or a few hours of time) to college basketball, this Saturday might be one of the season’s best!

There is Saturday. For starters, not all of these games will be available to everyone, so checking your local listings will be integral in determining which ones you can actually watch.

CBS has a two-game, double-header starting at 2 p.m. with Xavier at Duke (both Top 10) while others will see Michigan State face the Texas Longhorns. Immediately following at about 4 p.m., fans can catch either Connecticut traveling to Seattle to play Gonzaga or Steph Curry and Davidson heading north to meet the Purdue Boilermakers.

On the cable tip, Fox Sports Net has a double-header in Phoenix beginning at the exact same time. In the first game (also starting at 2 p.m. ET) Louisville will face the surprisingly undefeated Minnesota Golden Gophers, fronted by former Kentucky boss, Tubby Smith. That game is followed at around 4, by James Harden and the hometown Sun Devils of Arizona State hosting Brigham Young, which is led by 6-7 forward Lee Cummard, an assassin from distance (think Kyle Korver) that is getting 20 and 7 while shooting an amazing 63 percent from the field and 48 percent from long-range.

The night is capped off with a 6 p.m. dinner tip with Syracuse in the mid-South taking on the Memphis Tigers, who look to bounce back after their tough loss to Georgetown this past weekend.

Check Cub Buenning’s scouting website for weekly player reports. Many players highlighted in Cub Scouts are thoroughly covered on the site.

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  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Cub, I think the Zags will bounce back from this loss, but this loss in my eyes goes back to Jeremy Pargo not establishing himself earlier in the game and it screwed him. Austin Daye played well to his credit, with Bouldin and Gray contributing well for the Zags, but they couldn’t handle JORDAN HILL and NIC WISE! (Chase did decently, but as his college career has held true, he isn’t Top dog- Again). This weeks games I am very excited for, especially the Duke Xavier, UT-MSU and Zag-UCONN games (I’ll watch all of them live/TIVO’d. Great piece Cub, I like the swag.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    P.S- Cub, great job beating them to the punch on Baylor, both of us are going to enjoy the DEEEEEEP Baylor bears in the BIG12 tournament/NCAA tourney

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    Tennesse were a very generous number 8 going into that Temple game.Don’t like that team at all,don’t know what it is.Scotty Hopson appears to be a player,though.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    I’m a mild Tennessee fan due to Wayne Chism, JP Prince, Scotty Hopson and Renaldo Woolridge. I am also a mild fan instead of a die hard due to my annoyance with their random inability to score. They are a roster built for fast pace, yet randomly they slow down to a Princeton crawl and make me bang my skull deep into my lazy-boy.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Morning guys, this piece was a casualty of yesterday’s relaunch. RYNE, LOOKS GREAT! SO the Cuse’s loss to Cleveland St. was left off. Tennessee is a mystery for sure, but if Chism wants to play like he did v. Marquette every night they can contend for a nat’l title.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Chism is a straight beast. You should do a breakdown of young WC on your scouting reports, I’d like to get your breakdown on the youngbuck. I can’t make up my mind on him, far as I can tell he’s a versatile big man with decent range, nice length and good feel around the basket. His defense could use work on Centers, but his help side defense is legit, but I can’t decide if I feel he can contribute much in the NBA

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Justin, much like this fair site, my scouting one will be updated in a big way before the New Year!
    To me, my concern with Chism is between the ears.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I’ll be watching that UConn at Gonzaga game for sure. As for the new look of the site: Meh.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    His basketball IQ, or his Damion James’esque knuckle head’ry?

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    cool article. Hey, we are still under construction, right? I hope so…

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    Someone tell Woolridge that he shouldn’t shoot every three. dude is a jacker.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    My biggest problem with Chism?That stupid way he wears his headband.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    H to the Izzo, the way he wears that headband is EXACTLY how Dallas players rock it, don’t hate on rocking the headband high and back like a yammakka (spellcheck, and apologize to jewish people everywhere if I misspell it.)

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I co-sign izzo. Are they playing ball or making fashion statements?

  • http://where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    I could not believe that the Zags lost to Zona. I new the Wildcats still had talent but Jordan Hill is better than I thought. Chase Budinger just pisses me off for some reason.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Justin, just his consistency and his desire to be a great player. You can glean some of these basic concerns just off of Coach Pearl’s quotes from last night.

    (re. headband-there was the high socks-DC, then one high one low, baggy shorts–there’s always something.)

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    He makes me mad too B.Long. Ah, the rage of a white man. Breathe it in folks.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    B Long, the Wildcats have one of the best 3-headed monsters in the nation; they will be heard from later this year.
    Not a bad loss for Gonzaga.
    At least it wasn’t to Cleveland St. or Western Kentucky, Portland St. or Temple, or something…..

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    See, Chase just makes me jealous, that’s all. Wish i coulda had hops like that!

    He’s played pretty well this year and shouldn’t be frowned upon for not “dominating.”

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Cub, it’s not the not DOMINATING, it’s that he is competent at many things, but not exceptional at anything. He can shoot well, not great. He can defend decently, but not well. He can jump very high, but doesn’t use it that often. He can dribble the rock, but doesn’t have it on a string. I think that’s why he’s frustrating to me

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    already broke the 20 comment mark this early in the damn morning? Looks like Cub is taking advantage of the new site layout. :)

  • http://where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    Justin nailed it. It’s like he can do anything he wants to on the court at any time, he just chooses not too. He has had the skill set needed to cash NBA checks for about 3 years now.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    I’m a bit confused by you two (justin/blong) on Chase.
    I would have to differ about him “being able to do anything he wants” but choosing not to. The game is much more challenging that you guys lay it out.
    However, what you guys are describing seems to be a well-rounded player with few weaknesses. I agree he needs to go to the rack stronger and with more regularity, but remember he isn’t in Tucson solely to prepare for the NBA.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    You Texans….

    I want Chase to be the dominate player he appears capable of being, but the structure of college basketball is set-up to deny this from usually happening.

    Team before individual-as apposed to the NBA….

  • http://where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com/ B. Long

    What if the rest of your team(besides Jordan Hill) isn’t very good? Then is it ok to dominate?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    B, you are oversimplifying the idea and process of dominating a college basketball game.
    Agreed that other than Wise and Hill, though, the ‘Cats are super thin.
    Those three need to show up every night for success.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Cub, a rare time I disagree with you. The Arizona system is a hotbed for players dominating on offense, always has, always will. Salim Stoudamire, J. Bayless, Gilbert Arenas, Luke Walton, Jason Terry, the list could go further but the SLAM faithful might lose track. Chase is a solid player and will do fine in the league, but for ALL his potential, it’s underwhelming watching him play.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    I still like Arizona to be one of the best teams in the PAC-10.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Fair enough, Justin, but I would love to see the production those guys had in college, b/c i would doubt any of their numbers would be overwhelming…. or even better than Chase’s are right now.

    Remember, Agent Zero was a solid college player, surely not dominant.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    I don’t mean to simplify domination of college, or the game itself, but when a player has the disgusting physical and intangible gifts that a Chase Budinger has, being just a solid player when you should be an outstanding one is mildly off-putting. It’s like when Chalmers didn’t become the one and done phenom people expected. He was a solid player at Kansas and is doing just fine in the league, but he never took full advantage of his talents, even within the system (his last year I understand, the team was LOADED, but Freshman and Sophomore campaigns, his guardplay needed more). I rarely give the underwhelming grade to a player and I know it makes me seem like I’m criticizing him over small change, but nevertheless.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Salim sure as hell dominated in college, we all know that. I might have overstated Luke Waltons game in college, but I distinctly remember him outplaying Chase right now, and they are similar players in the ZONA offense to me.

  • http://www.shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com H to the Izzo

    The most Gil ever averaged in college was 16 points,15 for Walton,21 for Terry but that wasn’t until his senior year.Chase will be alright,is my point.

  • http://www.ballislife.com Justin Walsh

    Izzo, the argument was never whether or not Chase is alright. He’s a solid player. I’m just saying he’s underwhelming. Another thing to be said, those Arizona teams were loaded, and those stats on a loaded team are better than Chase’s stats on a team with only 3 offensive options.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    Coming in late here, but I’ll agree that I’ve always been more impressed with people’s perceptions of Buddinger than by watching his game. I know he’s got hops, but he seems to avoid contact a lot and be a little timid at times. Like, sometimes he just disappears during games.

  • http://ittakesanationofmillionstoholdthissac.blogspot.com ciolkstar

    Man, Arizona used to be awesome. I loved those teams with Bibby and Arenas, I think Walton played with them as well (?)
    Jordan Hill always impresses me when I watch him. He’ll probably go in the (early) second round and end up being a solid contribuor…

  • http://slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    Nice work Cub, real nice.

  • lobo

    Nice writeup. Saint joseph’s is the only big 5 team (besides Penn) that plays every big 5 game at the palestra. The other schools choose to play the games at their own gyms. SJU even plays drexel at the Palestra.

    Holy war at the palestra, one half sju fans and one half nova fans. There is nothing like it. Imagine if Duke played UNC and fans of each school got half of the arena…

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    coilk is right on point. Chase seems a little bit shy from the spotlight when it comes down to crunch time. He is super athletic and he can stroke the ball but I’m not sold on him being the main go to guy for them in the clutch. play wit it.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    coilk is right on point. Chase seems a little bit shy from the spotlight when it comes down to crunch time. He is super athletic and he can stroke the ball but I’m not sold on him being the main go to guy for them in the clutch. fly society in the house.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Kid Presto

    worpress likes to mess with my emotions.

  • http://allday-fadeaway.blogspot.com Nbk

    Jordan Hill is expected to go no higher than 20 in the draft. More than likely he’ll get picked up in the lottery

  • http://allday-fadeaway.blogspot.com Nbk

    If you watch UofA games regularly you are more then likely underwhelmed by Chase Budinger, he seems timid, when he is aggressive though he is a very good player but that aggressive side does not come out very often.

  • http://lastknickstanding.blogspot.com Bryan

    Cub you actually make me interested in college ball haha.

  • Pingback: SLAM ONLINE |

  • http://www.statefansnation.com Alpha Wolf

    The best basketball in the country is in the Research Triangle area of NC, sorry.

    Maybe you have heard of Tobacco Road before?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Alpha, then you might as well throw in Winston-Salem and include Wake and High Point, and then go out even further and throw in Charlotte and Davidson…..
    I’m talking about one city, best college ball, Philadelphia, PA.
    It’s not debateable.

    Best states??? I’ll hear opening arguments for Carolina.

  • Colin

    You guys seems to know very little about U of A hoops. What you haven’t noticed is Budinger’s increase in rebounding this year. Also, Chase is improving. Remember, Brandon Roy stayed four years at UW. Budinger will be a strong NBA player. Hopefully, an All-Star. I’ve been watching since age 5. I’m now 26.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    Thanks Colin. Chase is, for some reason, the most scrutinized player in america. I purposefully stayed out of that “underwhelming” discussion….I’ve never made any bones about how I feel….
    Although most aren’t, I am more than impressed with the progress he has made and love the Roy comparison.

  • http://www.statefansnation.com Alpha Wolf

    I’m talking about one city, best college ball, Philadelphia, PA.
    It’s not debateable.

    The Triangle area is one town now. All three schools are less than 16 miles away. Adding Wake Forest and High Point is at best a straw man, and besides, you are forgetting that Wake Forest moved from Wake Forest, NC, a Raleigh suburb.

    But if you would like to argue with a total of 9 NCAA tournament titles, 34 final fours, and 41 ACC championships between the three in the modern era, I’d be happy to have that argument.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cub Buenning

    I’ll pass on the discussion in semantics.
    “One town?” ok.

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